iPod, eBook, dAllowance


‘Can I have an iPod Touch for my birthday?’ asked my five year old daughter yesterday (the birthday isn’t far away), ‘Susie has one, and she’s 6’. ‘No’, came my reply, ‘I gave you an iPod mini just a few weeks ago’. We’ve been going through a bit of an iPod upgrade cycle around the house since I filled up my old 1G Touch and decided to splash out on a newer 32GB model.

The physical kit is just the start of the problem though – what about content?

I was rather surprised to discover during my upgrade process that I didn’t have to rebuy my apps for my old iPod touch. It seems that the 5 ‘authorised’ machines that Apple allows me also translates to 5 devices worth of apps from a single account. To be honest I wouldn’t have minded buying Bejewelled 2 and Drop 7 again for my wife, as they’re only a couple of quid each.

Having a ‘family’ account for iTunes seems like a good plan (especially when it means that I don’t have to repeat buy the same stuff), but I sense trouble ahead…

  • Firstly I’m not going to give my kids my iTunes password. Not only does it almost certainly break the terms of service (though why should I really care about that?), but it’s the digital equivalent of handing over an entire book of blank cheques. For similar reasons they also don’t get to have my eBay, Amazon or PayPal passwords (and I’ve started using two factor authentication for eBay and PayPal so that saved passwords don’t make my machine a soft target to work around this).
  • Secondly what happens when they grow up and leave home? Do the mp3s that I bought for them (with my email address or some other identification almost certainly burnt into the metadata) have legal right of passage? When they are old enough to have a credit card and their own account will they be obliged to repurchase all of their old favourites? Will the ACTA empowered copyright goons at international borders be understanding when my daughter has married, but still carries content with her old the wrong name burnt into it?
  • Thirdly I don’t always want to be the bottleneck on this stuff. If the kids want to spend their Christmas, birthday and pocket money on Hannah Montana mp3s, or Club Penguin or Moshi Monsters then I’d rather be out of the loop. If they wanted to buy the physical versions of these things (or even vouchers for some of the relevant services) then they can just walk into a shop and put cash on the counter.

What seems to be missing here is some sort of flexible electronic payments system for kids. Something that puts them in control of whatever allowance or gifts that they’re given (and let’s not forget that vouchers are like cash, only less good) – this needs to be better than cash, money that you can spend anywhere on the internet (that kids would go). Maybe when Rixty escapes from the US (and provided that it gets some broader adoption with the relevant services) it will be the thing? There is however a LOT going on in the payments world at the moment, particularly with prepaid debit, so plenty of scope for innovation and competition.

One potential spoiler is that many services (e.g. Amazon) insist on a credit card for digital products (presumably because the know you customer stuff that sits behind these products provides a stronger anchor to a given geography so that content distribution companies can play their stupid games with windows). Maybe those companies don’t see kids as an important market? Maybe they think that by pissing them off when they’re teenagers they’ll be all the more keen to buy their stuff when they’re ‘grown up’ and allowed proper plastic? Or maybe something new will come along and dis-intermediate these people back into the 20th century where their business model came from.

3 Responses to “iPod, eBook, dAllowance”

  1. Many teenagers have extensions of their parents’ cards so they could also do some online shopping with them anyway. As for Amazon, I think ebay’s dethroned it long ago.

  2. 2 @ndy

    A friend of mine was accepting Splash Plastic online and he said that most of the people who used it were under 18.


    They seem to still be going and have a prepaid Maestro model.

  1. 1 Eyeballs not devices « Chris Swan's Weblog

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